Tax Deduction Day: Together We Sink

Today will be remarkable for its deep venality and outright disgust. To add to the tragedy, not that many will mind it a wee bit. But as people will rush to finish filing taxes to meet tomorrow’s deadlines, it is perhaps a time to candidly examine the system of taxation that defines capitalism to a great extent.

For whom the taxes toll?
Instead of a banal question that wonders if taxation is a good thing or a bad thing (which is as debatable as ethics of don Imus), lets ask if it serves the purpose –and more importantly, whose purpose. Logically, the taxation system must be serving some purpose—else, we would not be having the IRS at the first place emerging as the biggest bureaucratic makeup in the country. Now the critical question is whose purpose is it serving.

Surface answers are quite obvious: taxes serve the rich in a capitalist country. After all, the rich get richer, and the poor poorer as the economic gaps in the first world countries would indicate. But it is this extent of disparity that must force us to pause and rethink the strategies to make the taxation system work- for the majority. (And I am not talking about tax reforms here.)

Perhaps it would be fruitful to assume that the taxation system means differently for the power structure at various phases of history. At one point not so long ago, the landless alone paid the taxes. Slavery was the most visibly institutionalized taxation format in the world. Be it under the ruthless kings, the colonialists or the slaveowners, the sarbahara (dispossessed) was exploited beyond humane reasons. From this exclusively oppressive taxation limited to the poorest, to the current practice of universal taxation aimed at the larger population—the point to ponder is how much has changed ever since, and how much needs be replaced.

Capitalism as Charity:

Indeed, no one wrests for capitalism. There is never a revolution enacted with an aim to provide capitalism. Capitalism is the biggest antidote to revolution, because it is based on charities. Not only it thrives on charities, it in fact originates as one. As inherently mocking is charity towards its recipients, capitalism is doubly so. Doubly, because it transcends the hypocrisy of charity and even declares charity itself as a revolution.

If a car brand called Chevrolet amuses itself as the American Revolution or a TV producer Oprah Winfrey declares the push-up bras she gifts out to standardized women as the biggest revolution in the world, its because in an depressingly shell-shocked environment, only the most ignorant can be permitted to legitimize their views.

As the ancestral philosophies of these ribald declarations, charities have been equated with the “revolutionary” thoughts of capitalism. From the founding days of so-called revolutions in all the first world countries, one has only witnessed filthy “free” rules by the master class over their slave classes of subjects. It was not until the middle of last century that the oppressed class received some of the political rights, if at all. Why did the owner class of the “democracies”- Greek to American- call themselves free rulers of a subjugated people for hundreds of years? Because they thrived on their charities towards the “commoners”—at once, getting rid of the psychological guilt and financial burden.

Likewise, political power was granted in charities—indeed this continues to be the case, as we witness the perfect embodiments of rich capitalist class wielding political power in all the “modern democracies”. A system of taxation, thus was evolved to sustain the class character of charities.

Class Character of Charities:

Its rather simple to understand—the more we have, the more we can donate. In fact, many even go to the extent to justify why they need to have more: because they can donate more! In the perfect sense of reformism, the only way a human being can be useful to the world is by being able to donate more to the world. And the donation is not “empty” thoughts that might turn “dangerous” (and therefore the collective disdain at the Communists in this country, for example), but the donations have to be in form of goods, lotteries, charity shows –all forms of capitalistic exhibitionism.

Individual prerogatives:

Many reformists in the past and present argue for opposing the payment of taxes. Some pacifists argue, since a portion of it goes towards war purpose, it is rather not to be paid. By that logic, the absolutely illiterate celebrities (sounds like a redundant phrase here) protest they are paying way too much for (education of) the poor. Both are dangerous freedom frolics who would probably wish for both Imus and Hip-Hop lyrics to stay on, because they would want to have a piece at the dirt arena too. With all the cameras focused on Al Gore and Anna Nicole (these types are born immortal, after all), its rather a good idea for them to maintain the circus of abuses in the name of freedom! More money, more freedom. Add a pinch of Charity, Cause, or Commotion—and we will have another guilt-free year when we file the taxes.

So what is our role here? All of us—the majority of people- who want to pay honest taxes so that they will be spent for good cause? Should we merely refuse to pay taxes? Hell, no. So should we not apply for “deductions”? Yes? Sounds like a noble idea. This way at least we can make sure that our share of tax remains with the IRS, and not paid back. Sounds good.

But highly improbable. With the hundreds of thousands of tax consultants who are ready to swing the carrots of refunds on our face, and the perfectly “legal” clauses that ask for the Thrift Store receipts or Tuition Fee deductions, why would one refuse to claim the benefits? After all, do we ever insist that the discounts at JC Penney be just not applied to our counter purchases?

Ironically, the truth of charities is that it creates a society based on greed and competition. Both greed and competition promote lies, deceit and outright oppression. For an instance, as a student, perhaps one would say a deduction should be claimed on the textbook purchases. At the same length, a venture capitalist would claim deductions based on massive property. In fact while filling out the form yesterday I noticed one could claim deduction if one had provided shelter to a Katrina victim! On all the above three counts, the acts of deductions are absolutely dishonest. What thoughts go through our minds when pay the tax at the counter? Thoughts that we will have it partially back once the tax season comes? What then, remains of the usefulness of taxation system? Of course its dangerous redundancies are obvious from the continuing state of ill-health that the poorest sections continue to suffer at the hand of apathetic administration. But it also begs for a critical reflection over the concept of taxes, charities and their tunes of deductions.

Charities are inherently oppressive. First, the benefactors gain eminence over the recipients. It is so vulgar that the benefactors in fact name institutions after them for throwing in some illegitimate money that pays them tax dividends. At the same time, they weaken the spirits of the “benefited” who thrive on the charities of the rich—essentially, so that they can never revolt against their own state of dispossession. Charities in this sense merely perpetuate the cycles of oppression, hopelessly, ceaselessly. They do not address the causes of disparities, they work to maintain it in a more acceptable fashion. And so that charities do not cause harm to the donor, the flawed system of taxation comes to the rescue. As a trickled-down effect, this provision also comes to help some of us in the lower rung, and we gladly act on it in the manner we would if a ticket price is “discounted” for us (no matter if it merely means we pay 10% of our income for the discount, while the rich pay less than a percent of theirs at the full price). Why do we let this happen?

What should be done?
As long as we can ‘get away’, we will tend to let others ‘get away’ (even if getting away is a matter of vastly varying degrees). Unfortunately, this is still true for most part in the human society, no matter how much we blow the trumpets of individualistic freedoms, the social equality as a principle must always be aimed at curtailing individual liberties.

Taxation, like healthcare, needs to be truly effective, not figuratively universal. Tax reformers have been arguing that tax should be collected on a proportionate basis. That is, the rich will pay more tax, and the poor will pay less. This is an almost perfect argument. Why it is almost so, is because this is an incomplete argument. The point is collection of tax has something to do with deduction of it as well, because in the final analysis, the effects of collection are impacted by the amount of deductions.

For the taxation to be effective, the state needs to enforce the collection of proportionate taxes at a rate that may not be “convenient”, but maybe socially desirable. For those of us who whine at the relativity of “social desirability’ citing postmodern angst, all we have to do is to position ourselves in the lowest social class ladder to get a grasp of reality that is material, not philosophical.

Tax cuts and deductions must be revisited as a system of operation that may not sound very lucrative (as stated above, no one will give away their freedom to cash a check if the free check is around). And it is because of this temptation, this greed to hold onto our “hard-earned” money (because the poor apparently do not earn…and by this crude logic only the rest of us who pay taxes hard-earn), we need a system at place, not some good hearted individuals.

Deductions Depict Class Society:

Tax deductions are indeed the lifeline of a class society. So long as tax deductions are in place, what is important is not merely to grasp the gaps in deductions that people can afford to ‘get away’ with, but the fact that deductions are present so that they must be unequally applicable to people.

In other words, tax deductions are the biggest proof, and, the biggest security for the existence of a class society. If only all the people, irrespective of mental or physical labor, were employed at equitable income level, there would not be such a thing as ‘tax deductions’.

If only people had an equal stake in the maintenance of social structure, and their roles would not have to depend on their level of income, there would not be deductions in practice to promote acts of charity—whose purpose is to make a hero/heroine of the rich, and to silence the potential dissent by the masses who are fed the cakes thrown from tall balconies.

As a reminder, capitalism will never stop the system of deductions, because that is the manner in which it normalizes the income of the richest—those who own the structure and create its norms.

And if we do not question the system that is designed by the rich, of the rich and for the rich, we would be perhaps talking merely wishfully about social justice and peace and happiness. No amount of either personal charities or noble actions of paying “proportionate” taxes will be useful as a means, if the ends themselves are based on promoting a class society—one in which the poor people have nothing to claim as deductions, for they do not even pay the taxes, because they do not even work, and they do not even have healthcare, nor can afford education. And they are accused as the wretched of America—the “freeloaders”, the social security beggars and the charity-seekers. Give it a thought today: it is not they that are at fault.

Instead of “providing shelter to a Katrina survivor’ as a means of tax deduction, we should have engaged the victims of a massive administrative disaster in all the forms we could to snatch for them the rights to be treated equally by the state apparatus thus ensuring no administrative loopholes exist any longer. But then, in a “free” market economy, we have even sold the state’s responsibilities off, where individuals are left to fend for themselves.

On the “Tax Deduction Day”, lets resolve to take the “power” back from the free markets, and truly have a system that “enforces” equality.


Author: Saswat Pattanayak

Journalist, Generalist, Atheist, Poet, Lover, Photographer, Communist, Third wave Feminist, LGBT ally, Black power comrade, Peacenik, Anti-capitalist, Critical media theorist, Radical film critic, Academic non-elite…

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